Franco Smith refused to be drawn on George Turner’s future with rumours continue to swirl that the hooker is set to make a move to Japan.

The 31-year-old has been linked with a move to Kobe Steelers where he would be reunited with former Glasgow Warriors head coach Dave Rennie.

He’s currently out injured but is expected to be back before the end of the season, but he might not be around next year if he does make the move to the other side of the world.

With Fraser Brown to retire in the summer it would leave Glasgow with decisions to make on that position for next season. Grant Stewart signed up for next season earlier this week and is straight into the squad to face Zebre while Johnny Matthews injury isn’t as bad as first feared and he’ll be back soon too.

The inexperienced pair of Gregor Hiddleston and Angus Fraser are also there but when pushed on whether Turner would be around next season, Smith looked to evade the question and said: “He’s going to be available more or less from the quarter-finals onwards.”

And when pushed on what happens after the season ends, he replied: “Discussions are still going on, apparently. I can’t confirm or deny anything.

“I’m definitely sure they’ve had conversations, that I can tell you. What exactly has been said, I’m trying to keep that away from the team at the moment.

“As George is injured and not in our daily environment as often we don’t speak much about what is happening next. That’s conversations for one floor above me.”

Scotland Rugby News: Franco Smith

Smith was speaking before Glasgow’s game against Zebre on Saturday and it’s set to be a family affair with his son – Franco Smith Jr – lining up at centre for the Italian outfit.

For Glasgow, Smith has made nine changes to the team that defeated Sharks last week with Allan Dell to make his first start in more than a year as part of an all changed front row.

He starts at loosehead with Lucio Sordoni at tighthead and Hiddleston is handed the number two jersey.

Max Williamson is one of just two forwards who keeps his place from last week and he’s partnered by Sintu Manjezi in the second row, while Ally Miller and Thomas Gordon come in to the side to play alongside Henco Venter in the back row.

There’s also a double change in the half backs with Jamie Dobie and Ross Thompson coming into start, while Stafford McDowall partners Sione Tuipulotu in the centre.

The final change sees Josh McKay come back in at full back with Facundo Cordero injured and he’s joined by Kyle Rowe and Kyle Steyn in the back three.

It’s a strong bench though with Stewart joined by Nathan McBeth, Zander Fagerson, Scott Cummings, Euan Ferrie, Gregor Brown, George Horne and Tom Jordan.

And Smith insists his players need to be at their best to get a result against Zebre despite their struggles in the URC this season where they finish bottom.

Scotland Rugby News: Josh McKay

He said: “It’s not an easy task at all, but all season our objective has not been to beat Zebre, Munster or whoever we play. Our mission is to be the best in this competition that we can be.

“We have to approach every game as if it is a final, because we need to train the way we are going to train to go beyond the quarter-finals this year.

“Our mission is not to beat Zebre - that maybe can be the result of our process being executed well. That’s where the focus sits - on us, and seeing how good we can become with the things we want to do.

“I don’t want to focus on the outcome of games, because if you focus on that in any finals game, you lose the focus on the process and end up falling short. We’re working on our mentality to get our process done properly, because to act on your beliefs is better than just to believe.

“Especially at the start of the season, Zebre had a lot of belief. They still have, and I know those players, they’re proud and the number of home games they have left is getting smaller. It was always their fortress and they always get themselves up specifically for that.

“We expect them to make it tough and they’ve shown this season that they are quality group of players who, if they get it right, are difficult to beat.”

The good news for Glasgow is that scans have confirmed their belief that the injuries suffered to Johnny Matthews and Oli Kebble aren’t serious.

Kebble is set to return to training next week and there’s hopes that Matthews will also be on the South Africa trip.

Smith continued: “Both of them are not that serious. Johnny can be shorter-term, it just depends on the clinical improvement. Oli is already out of the boot and walking around so he will be back training on Monday.

“Johnny we will assess on Wednesday and then see what the protocol is, but currently he’s making good progress. Neither of them is as bad as we thought originally.”

The teams

Zebre: Lorenzo Pani, Jacopo Trulla, Franco Smith Jr, Enrico Lucchin, Scott Gregory, Geronimo Prisciantelli (captain), Thomas Dominguez, Giacomo Ferrari, Iacopo Bianchi, Guido Volpi, Dylan de Leeuw, Leonard Krumov, Muhamed Hasa, Marco Manfredi, Danilo Fischetti

Replacements: Giampietro Ribaldi, Samuele Taddei, Juan Pitinari, Matteo Canali, David Sisi, Ratko Jelic, Fetuli Paea, Taina Fox-Matamua

Glasgow Warriors: Josh McKay, Kyle Steyn (C), Stafford McDowall, Sione Tuipulotu, Kyle Rowe, Ross Thompson, Jamie Dobie, Allan Dell, Gregor Hiddleston, Lucio Sordoni, Sintu Manjezi, Max Williamson, Ally Miller, Thomas Gordon, Henco Venter

Replacements: Grant Stewart, Nathan McBeth, Zander Fagerson, Scott Cummings, Euan Ferrie, Gregor Brown, George Horne, Tom Jordan